She competed for Miss Nepal 2018. She worked as a model for a number of beauty and accessory products. Shikshya Sangroula wanted to excel in studies as well. While all this was going on, she was fighting her own battles.
Someone she had known for months had threatened to throw acid on her face; ‘anytime, anywhere’ if she rejected love proposal. He threatened to break her legs and arms. She felt unsafe in her own apartment.
His messages with different IDs flooded her instagram and facebook posts, making it impossible to hide things from others. Friends told Sangroula that it was her ‘mistake to trust him’, and some suggested that she talk to his parents.
The young girl, 22, could not handle the situation, and depression took a toll on her mental and physical health, suicidal thoughts came rushing to her.
"My story started in 2014 when I came to Kathmandu for further studies. I came to this city with big dreams. I didn't know that was in store for me," said Sangroula, model and an MBA student.
She wanted to share her story, because she knows that ‘hundreds of girls in the society are going through the same'.
Youngest of two daughters, she grew up in Biratnagar. Sangroula’s parents always told her that they wanted to give her wings to fly as high as she wanted, and hurting them was the last thing she could ever do.
"The biggest fear in girls is the judgment and comments people carelessly pass on to us. Such things bother not just you, but your family as well. That's why I never thought of reporting things to my parents. I did not know it would get horrible."
The man who confessed his love for her was a neighbor. His family was supportive of the new girl next door. She felt like she got a new family away from home.
"I initially hesitated to talk to him. But he was my neighbor, and he said I was like his sister. That comforted me."
In 2015, she put Bhai Tika on him. But, what followed was not pleasant.
"He would hug me every time. If I shuddered, he'd say a brother can hug a sister," Sangroula recalled.
Six months after their first meeting, he confessed his love, and wanted to date her. He would follow her to pageants, events, and to her college.
"I was under his scanner all the time. He would just not leave me alone. And, he would threaten to tell my parents if I revolt. I never wanted to bother my parents."
She kept her problem to herself. That made her lonely and weak. She stopped eating or coming out of room. 'Day and night felt the same.'
"And then he would come and behave as if he was my only saviour," she said, choking her voice.
Her health rapidly deteriorated in 2015/16. The same man took her to a mental health clinic. A psychiatrist started therapy, and she took medicine for three months.
She pleaded with the man to leave her alone. But he would not listen.
"Doctor helped me get through this. Medicine gave me peaceful sleep. But he was my major problem, and I kept telling him that what he wanted was not possible," she reported.
The man, who was well educated, used to be extremely polite and considerate at times. It would make her feel that he would have mercy on her, and that he would vanish from her life.
But that was a false hope.
"As I was coming out of depression, I firmly told him to stay away. I also gathered courage and talked to his parents. He was agitated, and he called up my parents and talked nonsense. His only weapon to keep me in hostage was the threat to reveal things to my parents. He had now used that weapon, and I was not scared anymore," she narrated.
Friends helped her find a new apartment. She did not want the man to find out about her place, but he started coming to the new location. Since she was into modeling, her movements were not time-bound. And this man would wait to see her on the way. Sangroula tried her best to avoid him, and this was when he started to threaten her with acid attack.
"He had never spoken about acid before. It happened after I left the old apartment. He would keep an eye on me like an eagle. He would send threatening messages and comments. He was vicious."
The threats of acid attack made Sangroula's life miserable. Sounds of bikes whizzing by would scare her. She would often check to see if he is following her scooter.
“What if he suddenly appears and just throws acid on me?”
Terrible thoughts hounded her. He vowed to not leave her ‘at any cost’ because 'he loved her so much'.
"I hid all this from my parents for a long time, because this was not something they could handle. And I had a dream, a career ahead of me. Going to the police did not seem appealing because I thought that would be a hassle."
Sangroula was in a difficult situation. Then one day, in Pulchowk, Lalitpur, the man came and sat on her scooter. Arguments followed, and everyone saw this. The incident gave her the much needed confidence.
She felt that the people recognized the culprit, and nobody would point a finger to her. A person she knew had just taken up a job with Nepal Police, and he was stationed in Kathmandu. She called him up, and the inspector immediately came to the scene.
"That was the first day of my private battle gone public. The police helped me. Now I feel that we should change our attitude them, and the police should also be more cooperative with the public," Sangroula added.
The inspector threatened and also counseled the man. Once again, the matter reached his family. He did not stop chasing Sangroula however. Then the inspector warned him of locking him up for good. The man’s family asked for forgiveness, and Sangroula softened.
In 2018, when she was busy with her office work, and her friend said that the man wanted to apologize, and go away from her life forever.
"I was told that he wanted to meet me for the last time. He had come with a rakhi. It had been some time he had stopped bothering me."
They met at a café, and the man apologized. He hoped that she would forgive her someday. Sangroula denied the rakhi, but she forgave him.
"I didn’t want to carry bitterness against anyone in my heart. My only regret is that I should have been open, and should have gone to the police sooner. I wanted to share my story because a lot of girls face similar harassment, and they are not in a position to tackle it. I want the girls to be confident, brave and aware of all legal provisions. Family support is vital to protect them from such a dark situation," said Sangroula.
One of her missions now is to help girls fight acid attack and other kinds of threats. It was triggered by a virtual interaction participated by dozens of youths last week. In the zoom meeting hosted by social activist Ujjwal Thapa, Sangroula had suddenly broke into tears. After she revealed her story to Thapa that day, she decided to inspire many girls and women.